WEIRTON — The Weir High girls soccer team came into Saturday’s sectional finale against rival Oak Glen looking to snap a six-game streak.
Six years, from 2017-22. the Red Riders’ season ended with a loss to the Golden Bears and watching their rivals work their way to the state tournament, often times in seasons when the Red Riders could have advanced just as far.
There’d be no seventh, however. Senior Oliva Baker scored with less than a minute to play in regulation to give the Red Riders’ the 2-1 sectional championship win and push them through to face East Fairmont in the Region 1 final.
“It was nice to finally get a win in this game,” Weir head coach Jeremy Angelo said. “That’s how it’s set up, unfortunately, and the last few years, we’ve both been pretty good. One has to lose.
“We’re very gratified to get this win. All of the girls came to play. They wanted to win.
“This group really wanted to change things, and they have this year.”
Changing thing starts with being able to beat Oak Glen and in that, Weir was perfect in 2023.
Not once, not twice, but three times did the two teams lock horns this season — including the OVAC final — and three times did Weir emerge victorious.
This, however, tastes the sweetest of the trifecta.
But that sweet taste of victory nearly turned sour early.
Little more than five minutes into the match Saturday, Oak Glen scoring machine Kami Ward broke free on the right side and rifled a shot leftward past a forward diving Reyna Hoover.
The hard-hit shot rimmed off the far post, but right into the waiting path of freshman Addyson Wells, who alertly took a shot with her left foot that found the back of the net.
Oak Glen took the early 1-0 lead with 34:15 and it took Weir more than a moment to regain its footing.
“I felt like we controlled most of the first half and created several opportunities and also limited their chnaces,” Oak Glen head coach Bill Watts. “Despie this, Weir did a good job of holding us to one goal and then they were able to capitalize on a call.
“Congratulations to Weir. We wish them nothing but the best in the regionals.”
The call Watts referred to was a foul call with 16:05 showing on the clock deep in Oak Glen’s end. It wasn’t in the box, so no penalty kick. But when Weir’s tandem lined up for the shot, it wasn’t much further away from the net and Oak Glen keeper Cameron Michaud.
The first player up deked and sophomore Madelyn Cramer lofted an arcing shot past the outstretched hands of Michaud to even the score at 1-1 before the half.
That goal seemed to lift Weir’s collective spirits and the Red Riders began playing more like the team that is now 17-2-2.
“(Oak Glen) came out ready to play, high pressed and got that goal, and we kind of withstood it for a bit, but when Madelyn scored on that free kick, it changed everything,” Angelo said. “We started playing and passing a bit more. It was a good old rivalry game. It was physical and it was tough for either team to really try and build anything.”
Each team had a scoring opportunity with less than three minutes in regulation.
Oak Glen’s again ringed harmlessly off the post and this time, no Bears’ attacker was waiting to stick the putback.
Weir tallied its final goal after Cramer took the ball on the left side and dropped a short pass to Jaidyn Kelly in the middle. Kelly alertly sent a touch pass forward between two Bears’ defenders where a streaking Baker sent a shot to the right of a diving Michaud for the game winner.
Weir now faces a Bees team that it recently tied 2-2.
While the Riders own the advantage in the speed department, Angelo noted the first thing he team noticed in the previous meeting, and needed to overcome, was the size difference between EF and his club.
“That team is big and physical,” Angelo said. “In fairness, nearly every team we play is bigger than us and we’re kind of used to it, but East Fairmont is big. Our girls noticed it early that they had size on us.
“We just have to play a little quicker and make the adjustments and not get into a physical style of play type game.”
Oak Glen now must move on from the Ward era which produced three OVAC, sectionl and regional championships and three straight trips to the WVSSAC Class AA/A state tournament.
“Any time you lose a scoring threat like Kami, it’s going to impact your team,” Watts said. “We only graduate four this year, but each of them wil be missed.
“High school soccer is unique in that you lose your most experienced players every year and our younger players have to step up. But I’m excited for our future.”
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